Rolling Hills Observatory

Observatory Information


 The Observatory:

Built during 2000, the observatory consists of a 10' x 12' wood-frame building with a simple peaked roll-off roof. The roof sits on 12 rubber wheels that roll along the capping 2x4 of the 5' high walls. Below are some photographs showing the assembly and the final product. Click on the photos for larger views:

Framing almost done! (4/23/00)

When the 10x12 slab was poured a short raised 18 inch square pillar was created in the center. This pillar goes down about 4 feet and was going to be the base for a large alt-az mounted reflector. After considering the effort in building a computerized alt-az scope, or the cost in buying a ready system I decided to go with the LX200. The pillar is still there, just in case...


The roof is framed - time for sheeting (5/12/00)

Most of the construction was simple to perform, but the roof proved the most troublesome. It was built in place since I was (rightly) concerned about lifting it after construction, as well as the greater difficulty in ensuring a proper fit. The wheels were attached to the 2x4 bases, and temporary braces were added to maintain the proper separation and alignment. Then the angle-cut joists were cut and carefully attached. The attachment of the joists to the base 2x4s, and to each other, proved to be the most difficult one-man task. It required some careful balancing and bracing to keep the various pieces from falling before the nails could be hammered.


Walls are up, and the roof opens! (5/25/00)


The scope is ready to go, waiting for nightfall

Close-up of equipment setup configured for CCD imaging


The observatory currently houses 10" and 14" LX200 telescopes, each on a Meade Giant Field Tripod and heavy-duty Meade wedge. This has proved to be a very steady setup with a few arc-minute pointing accuracy

Most of the wood used in the construction was pressure-treated, a minor additional expense that I considered very worthwhile, given Florida's well-earned reputation of heat, humidity, and insects. The exterior-grade plywood sheathing was covered with vinyl siding, a simple and fairly inexpensive covering that withstands the climate reasonably well. Stucco would have matched the neighborhood homes better, but I was concerned about additional heat retention, and also by my complete lack of experience with applying stucco!

All of the planning and actual construction, from the slab to the final screw on the door, was done alone. My wife was very tolerant of the time and money involved in building this, but I felt that actually having her lift heavy sections of roof was a bit too much.

The observatory has a dedicated power circuit that was run when the house was built. PVC conduit was buried before the slab was poured, bringing power and data cables from the outside wall, where the main computer is located, to the concrete pillar at the center of the building. This keeps cables off of the floor, an important feature in the dark.

Originally, a single Cat-5 data cable connected the observatory to the computer network in the house. However, Central Florida is the lightning capital of North America, and a 75 meter network cable acts like a very effective antenna for electrical surges from nearby strikes. After replacing a few hubs and a NIC, the copper line was replaced with a fiber optic cable and a pair of 100Mbps copper-to-fiber transceivers. The transceivers connect to the now-protected switches in the house and in the observatory. This network connectivity is vital since it allows me sit in the house and see the images as they are collected by the computer controlling the CCD. I can also connect to the Windows-based computer that is controlling the LX200, allowing me to remotely control the telescope and camera.



Last Updated: 28 Mar 2010